Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
The Bill, introduced on 19 October, proposes a number of amendments to the Freedom of Information Act 1991 (Tas) which are relevant to privacy.
The application fee and processing fees payable under the Bill are waived if 'the applicant has requested information relating to his or her personal affairs and no other information' (cl 6, cl 8). No fees are payable in respect of requests for amendment of personal affairs information (cl 25).
The s 30 exemption from disclosure (headed Information affecting personal privacy) at present exempts 'unreasonable disclosure of information relating to the personal affairs of a person', like most other Australian FOI Acts. The Bill proposes to delete the word 'unreasonable' and instead provide:
(2B) Notwithstanding subs (1), an agency or a Minister may disclose information relating to the personal affairs of a person if the applicant for the information can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the agency or Minister that it is in the public interest for the information to be disclosed.
For the purposes of subs (2A), the applicant must state in the request prepared under s 13 the grounds relied on for claiming that it is in the public interest for the information to be disclosed.
In effect, the applicant will have to demonstrate a public interest in disclosure.
The Bill provides that 'reverse-FOI' consultations with a person whose personal affairs would be disclosed by virtue of an application will only have to take place if the agency or Minister proposes to grant the application (cl 19(c)).
The Act provides for the next-of-kin of a deceased person to exercise that person's rights in relation to personal affairs information (s5(4)). The Bill extends this to refer to 'spouse, next-of-kin or personal representative' (cl 5).
References in the Act to 'personal affairs' are now to be taken to include 'a reference to information concerning any property of that person' (cl 5(6)). This would include amendment rights as well as access rights, and the 'privacy exemption' and 'reverse FOI' rights as well.
The Bill leaves untouched one of the greatest areas of uncertainty in most Australian FOI Acts, by leaving the words 'personal affairs' as a basis for both the privacy exemption and the right of correction of a person's own information (see 1 PLPR 72).